Ajax worked hard and had their chances, but lost to Aston Villa in the first match of the group stage of the UEFA Cup: 2-1. Ajax lost the match in a few decisive moments.
The opening stages of the game were stormy. Perhaps somewhat intimidated by the football atmosphere in Villa Park, the Ajax players had difficulty finding their bearings. A miss by Kenneth Vermeer led to the early opening goal. The goalkeeper missed on a high cross from the wing. Aston Villa captain Martin Laursen headed the ball into the empty goal: 1-0.
After that, Ajax came back. Fifteen minutes later Thomas Vermaelen headed in the ball from a corner kick by Urby Emanuelson: 1-1. Soon after, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Rasmus Lindgren had a good chance when both went to the ball but it ended up next to the goal of Brad Friedel.
Ajax were unlucky that Villa scored right before halftime. Oleguer could not stop the cross from Ashley Young and with no more Ajax defenders able to clear the ball, Gareth Barry scored from close range: 2-1.
,,A pity that the goal came at such a moment’’, Marco van Basten said. ,,But we had another half to fight back. We played well at time in the first half. The misses by Vermeer and Oleguer are moments that can happen.’’
But Ajax could not come back. With Dario Cvitanich and Leonardo on to boost the attack, and later with Gregory van der Wiel in the team to allow Urby Emanuelson to move to midfield, the pressure on Villa increased but it did not lead to real chances.
,,After haltime, we did not really play our game anymore’’, Van Basten said. ,,We played the long ball and let it become a physical game. That only made Aston Villa stronger.’’
In the group of Ajax and Aston Villa, Hamburger SV defeated MSK Zilina. Ajax receive Zilina in Amsterdam on 6 November.